Production Order: 6
Air Order: 6
Original Air Date: October 26, 1987
So I'm just gonna put this out there: I like Wesley Crusher. I think he's an interesting character, and that he adds nicely to the cast. That being said, I'm not gonna rag on him "just because." If he's being douchey, I'll call him on it. But having watched this series a bunch of times over, I can say right now that every character on this show has a douche moment, not just Wes. So while it's kind of funny when someone says "Shut up, Wesley," there are times when he deserves it, and times when he should really respond by telling them to go fuck themselves, because sometimes dude is right.
This is a Wes-heavy episode, and I'm just letting you know that I have no intention of calling that kid an a-hole if he isn't doing anything that warrants it. Also, Wil Wheaton is a pretty stand-up guy, and will fight anyone in the parking lot after school who says otherwise.
Picard's Log 41263.1: "Hookin' up with the USS Fearless so we can get a passenger from them. This guy is some kind of engine expert who's gonna look at our engines and maybe make some adjustments to make it go faster."
We open with Picard and Riker having a heated argument on the bridge. Riker doesn't trust the expert, Kosinski, because he thinks the guy is a fraud.
"Why would you think that?" Picard asks.
"Because he called me, and told me that my Windows program is full of viruses," Riker responds. "Also, the specs he sent are shit."
Riker gets Data to back him up: they fed the specs into the computer and ran some tests, but nothing happened. Picard says that the USS Ajax and the Fearless both had the upgrades and are running faster, but Riker points out that the E's engines are brand-spanking new, and that the difference on the other two ships may have been to just upgrade them to the E's levels.
Argyle calls to say that Kosinski is ready to beam over, and Picard decides to send Riker to meet him, since Riker has taken an "interest" in the matter. Riker seems a tad annoyed by this, but requests that Troi go too, so she can tell if this dude peddles space-snake oil in his spare time.
He didn't even fucking say hello. Riker just smiles some more and says the captain is busy. It makes me think that maybe while he was in the Academy, Riker worked a few Black Friday sales. His customer service skills are top-notch here. He hasn't strangled Kosinski, even though he's said he doesn't trust the guy, and that's saying something, because this guy rivals Bem for "Star Trek Character I'd Most Like to Punch."
Riker is all smiles and courtesy, and addresses the tall dude, who says that he's Kosinski's assistant, and that his name is unpronounceable by humans.
Ugh. That's the worst. I mean, it's fine, but it's such a bitch when you're doing some kind of write-up of an episode, and you get a character who appears often, but has no name by which you can call them. He gets a moniker later in the episode, but that gives away plot points, so I can't even call him that. I guess he has to be The Assistant for now.
So Riker says that he read in the dossier that The Assistant is from some distant planet, and he's being kind of small-talky for the sake of friendliness, but then Kosinski interrupts because no one is paying attention to him. He wants to see the engines right fucking now. RIGHT FUCKING NOW.
Fine, Veruca. Keep your panties on. Damn.
Kosinski just pushes his way through the others toward the engine room, because he doesn't need anyone to show him where they are. Argyle reluctantly follows.
Riker asks Troi what kind of reading she gets off Kosinski.
"He's a dick," she replies. "If it walks like a dick and talks like a dick, it's a dick. But the assistant is weird. Like he's a nice guy, but I'm not getting any reading off of him. Not even a presence. He sort of... doesn't exist."
Dramatic music! Commercial break!
Argyle enters engineering behind Kosinski, who is walking around like he owns the place. Kosinski immediately demands to know why Wes is in engineering.
"Fuck off," says Argyle. "He's working on a school project."
Dude, I love the fact that A) Argyle hates this bastard, too; and B) he defends Wes' right to be quietly working in engineering by himself, bothering no one. This is a working ship with families on board. Certain places will be off-limits to everyone but Starfleet personnel most of the time, but you're gonna get circumstances where a teenager gets special permission to work on school projects in engineering. Suck it, Kosinski.
Kosinski: "I am GOD, and you better pay attention to me."
Assistant: "Hey, there. Whatcha working on?"
"So, hey," says Argyle. "I have some questions about your work..."
"Yeah, I don't have time for that," sneers Kosinski. "But here are your questions and answers: you tested the work in the computer and it did nothing. But I'm here to actually do the thing, and I'm not gonna explain how it works, so you guys can suck it up while I fiddle around in engineering."
When he says it's been approved by Starfleet, Riker says that he and Argyle remain unconvinced.
Kosinski tries to say that Picard should look at it, but Riker pretty much tells him in his same customer service voice that he should go fuck himself. Repeatedly. Sideways. With a katana. He agrees to let them watch while he does his thing.
This whole time, The Assistant is still interestedly looking over Wes' shoulder as he works on his project. Kosinski takes our boys over to the pool table console, and starts some long-winded explanation of things, patronizingly using the smallest words he can and talking in a voice that says that he thinks very highly of himself. He tells them that he's going to be working at the pool table while his assistant puts in the calculations faster than any human could. Wes and The Assistant swap places, and this time Wes watches over his shoulder at the console.
"Looks wrong, right?" The Assistant asks Wes.
"Kinda,"admits Wes. He changes the calculations a bit, then says it has a chance of working.
The Assistant watches him carefully, but with this sort of beatific smile on his face that might be creepy when paired with the right context. In this case, he seems delighted that Wes is smart enough to get it.
|The Assistant is also polite enough not to remark on the fact that Wes is wearing|
an orange bedspread.
Kosinski is still blabbing on, but he's saying a lot of nonsense that lacks substance.
"I'm gonna build this warp thing. I'm gonna build it fast, and it's gonna go warp 55, and we're gonna make the Romulans pay for it. I'm very good at building warp stuff."
Riker asks Argyle if he thinks they should let Kosinski mess with their equipment, and Kosinski gets crazy-eyed and screams at them not to talk about him as though he wasn't there.
Boy, I don't blame them for talking about you as though you weren't there. I'm trying to pretend you aren't there. Then he barks at Wes to get the hell away from the console. The Assistant gives Kosinski the amused side-eye. He knows that Kosinski is full of shit.
Riker and Argyle don't think any of this will work, so they give Kosinski permission to go ahead and try it. The Assistant motions for Wes to stand behind him so the kid can see what he's doing.
Kosinski tells the bridge that he's gonna switch in his thing when they hit warp 1.5. So they do their thing, and The Assistant punches in his calculations, and they go to warp, but something is wrong. Warning sounds go off at the consoles, and Kosinski looks at his assistant in a scared way, yelling "What did you do?"
The Assistant, clearly not expecting this, puts his hands on his console and begins phasing in and out of space.
Of course, only Wes sees it. Riker and Argyle are paying attention to Kosinski, who is shitting himself at the pool table console.
Up on the bridge, Geordi tells Picard that they are passing warp 10, despite the fact that Kosinski told them that he would switch of his whatever-it-is when they hit warp 4.
The Assistant solidifies again and falls away from the console, hitting his head on the wall. Kosinski now looks like a little kid who's in trouble at school and waiting for his parents to exit the principal's office so he can collect his punishment. Data reports to Picard that their velocity is "off the scale."
Concerned that his ship is being shaken apart, Picard orders reverse engines. Data objects because it's dangerous, but really, what the hell else is Picard going to do? They manage to stop the thing, but in some uncharted area of space. Geordi says they left their own galaxy and blew through two others. Data adds that they've traveled 2,700,000 light-years.
"Fuck, dude," says Picard.
"Yeeeaaah," replies Geordi. "At our max warp, it's gonna take us more than 300 years to get home."
Dramatic music! Commercial break!
Picard's Log 41263.2: "Soooo, we're screwed."
Geordi tells Picard that he has sent a message to Starfleet about the situation, and because Data is Data, he can't just say that it'll take around 52 years to arrive. He starts calculating down to the second. Picard snaps at him to STFU. We've seen Data do this a few times already, and I guess the joke is that he can't estimate. I can't recall if he ever outgrows this tendency, but I do remember that he only seems to do it when it's most annoying to his coworkers.
Kosinski enters the bridge, all smiles, traces of the scared little boy gone. Instead, he looks like he's delighted that he's stranded their asses way out in the middle of nowhere. Nice going, Gilligan. The Minnow-prise is screwed. Riker and Argyle are clearly contemplating shivving this guy when they get him alone.
"I made a wonderful mistake!" says Kosinski cheerfully. (Yep, dude actually uses the phrase "wonderful mistake.") Then he explains his mistake to Picard was (insert meaningless drivel here.)
Down in engineering, Wes is telling The Assistant he is concerned for the alien's health. He offers to get his mother the doctor, but the worn-out assistant says she can't help.
The Wes gets right to the point by asking what we all want to ask: "Is Kosinski what he seems to be? A joke?"
The Assistant smiles, because he knows what Wes means, but he answers that Kosinski knows something bigger is going on.
Then Wes asks if it has something to do with space and time and thought being all intertwined, and The Assistant tells him that such ideas are dangerous, because the world Wes lives in is not ready for those kinds of concepts yet.
Up on the bridge, Kosinski is acting like he hoped things would turn out like this. He seems super-sure that they could always go that fast, and that they'll now have to start rethinking how they measure stuff.
"How about we call it the Kosinski Scale?" asks Argyle sarcastically.
But Kosinski's head is so fucking huge, all he hears is admiration for his accomplishments.
He thinks Argyle's "suggestion" is fabulous.
"And how exciting this must be for you!" he tells Picard. "Working with me is awesome, and being an explorer, I'm sure you're pleased as punch to be stranded in the middle of nowhere!"
Picard and the others are rolling their eyes at this d-bag.
"Get us home, Gilligan!" Picard tells him.
Kosinski practically skips back onto the lift, giving the bridge crew ample time to talk shit about him.
"He thinks he's right," Troi says to Picard.
Most of the others wonder if they can trust Kosinski to get them home again, seeing as how he just owned up to getting them in this mess through a mistake. Only Data the Immortal suggests that they stay for a while and gather information on the existing area. After talking it through, Picard decides that, if Kosinski's method can be replicated elsewhere, Starfleet can send back a full research vessel.
We go back to engineering, where Kosinski is waxing poetic about how this is an historic moment, and now everyone in engineering will have their names linked with his forever. Blah, blah, blah. I really wish Argyle would just punch him already.
Wes tries to pull Riker aside and tell him that Kosinski is a charlatan but, annoyed with the situation and the moron who is taking credit for it, Riker tells Wes to fuck off.
When Kosinski tells The Assistant to get up so they can take the ship back, Wes then tries to get his new friend some reprieve. Kosinski agrees to do it by himself, but The Assistant says that he'll totes help. They set shit up, go to warp 1.5 again, and Kosinski attempts to get his calculations or whatever to kick in. When they don't, his cocky demeanor slips.
This time, Riker looks up to see The Assistant phasing in and out of space. And he's clearly not doing well.
There are some warp special effects, and when Picard calls for all-stop, the bridge whole crew goes "WTF?"
"Um, we never went faster than warp 1.5," says Data.
"Soooo, where the hell are we?" asks Picard.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!
Picard's Log 41263.3: "So from what we can tell, we're like a billion light-years from our own galaxy."
"Fuck this shit," says Picard. "I'm going to engineering."
As soon as he leaves, Work spots a Klingon targ on the bridge. He's super-stoked because this targ is actually his childhood pet. Yar stares in disbelief at the targ and asks, "It's like a kitty cat?"
"Yes," he replies, petting the targ. But then it disappears as quickly as it appeared.
The lift doors open and Picard starts to step out but finds himself stepping out into space. Dramatic music! Picard panics!
He stumbles back into the lift, and when the doors open again, it's just the corridor beyond.
Back on the bridge, Tasha's earlier comment of "it's a kitty cat?" now makes sense. A cat has appeared on the console in front of her. When she hugs it and whispers "what are you doing here?" the background changes. She is in ripped, dirty clothes and standing in some tunnel clutching the cat. She lets go and tells it to leave, saying that it isn't safe, as a group of scary-sounding douche-bros approach her from the tunnel entrance. Geordi touches her on the shoulder and the illusion disappears. She explains to him that she hallucinated being back on the colony where she grew up, and was being chased by a rape gang.
(A quick aside: this is the second time that Tasha has mentioned "rape gangs" in the place where she grew up. That phrase seems kind of... blunt for Star Trek. They often hint at terrible things that may or may not have happened, but always seem to stop shy of saying it outright. But instead of Tasha just referring to them as "gangs" the word rape is added, leaving very little guessing as to what they might be after when they appear in the tunnel entrance. And she seems to have had quite a bit of experience with them, which means that they probably took what they wanted from her at least once, if not several times. Philosophical ideologies, manipulative people, governments drunk on power - these are the kinds of things that Star Trek normally covers. Sexual violence is not their usual forte, possibly because the creators were aware that people might be watching with their children. For the most part, anything of that nature is covered in a consensual way. Maybe I'm crazy, and it fits in well enough with the typical Star Trek fare. But for me at least, it feels like an uneasy match.)
Picard is not yet out of the woods. He walks by a cargo bay and barks at an ensign who is dancing ballet. She's wearing a tutu and pointe shoes until he demands to know what she's doing, then the accountrements disappear. A red shirt is sitting in the mess hall, playing violin in a string quartet... until he's just sitting in the mess hall by himself. Picard turns a corner and finds that his dead mother has set up tea for him in the corridor. This hallucination seems different, as she starts talking to him about the area of space that they're in. He realizes that he can get information from this thing that resembles his mother, but before she answers his questions, Riker comes along and finds Picard squatting in the corridor talking to thin air, and like Geordi and Tasha, Riker addressing Picard makes the image disappear.
"Oh, the hell with this," says Picard.
He sets the nearest alarm for red alert and orders general quarters on his way to engineering. When he gets there, he announces to the ship that they appear to be someplace where physical reality mixes with thoughts, and that everyone needs to control their thinking for the time being, or they're all screwed.
Then he starts to confront Kosinski, but Riker interrupts to tell him that Kosinski was never the one running the warp drive experiment, and that it was all The Assistant. The Assistant, who is currently laid out on a table in engineering, being scanned by Dr Crusher.
And Kosinski, whose head is massive, tries to argue that the experiment was all him, even though it's completely screwed them all.
"The equations he was punching in were all bullshit," says Riker.
Kosinski's ego deflates a tiny bit, and he admits that he thought he might have been operating on The Assistant's level. I'm really hoping Picard will just deck him. He looks angry enough to do it.
Riker says that Wes knew The Assistant was running the show, and that he brushed the kid off - twice - when he tried to say something about it.
"The Assistant is dying," says Dr Crusher. "I don't think he can get us back."
Quiet, serious music! Commercial break!
|Bonus: skant sighting!|
Picard's Log, supplemental: "Recap. Also, this alien dude is dying, and we don't have the capabilities to help him."
The Assistant has been moved into sick bay. Crusher is still unsure of how to help him, and Picard is starting to panic. And how does Picard react when he panics? He becomes a bit of a douche-bag. he barks at Wes when Wes tries to enter sick bay. Riker points out that The Assistant is buddies with "the boy," and "the boy" gets pissed off.
"I'm Wes. Say my name, say my name."
Picard acquiesces to having Wes there, which is fortunate, because he let that complete peen-hole Kosinski stay in sick bay, so he better damn well let Wes in.
Then, unfortunately, against medical advice, he demands that Crusher wake up The Assistant.
Reluctantly, she agrees.
"Who are you?" asks Picard.
"Just a traveler," the alien replies.
He doesn't introduce himself as The Traveler, but now that they are talking about him as much as I have been, they need something to call him, so they've taken to calling him that.
He explains that he isn't going anywhere specific, but he's interested in humans, and his abilities give him knowledge of propulsion, so he's been trading that for rides on Starfleet vessels and letting Kosinski take the credit. Hitchhiking across the galaxy without a towel. That's bad-news bears.
"Are we like, a kajillion light-years from home?" asks Picard.
"Yeah, kinda?" replies The Traveler. "But you got here by thought, rather than propulsion. You get that thought is the basis of reality, right?"
Whoa, nelly. Are we talking solipsism here?
"That's bullshit," says Kosinski.
STFU, Kosinski. You don't get to talk anymore.
"Naw, I get it," says Picard. "The danger here lies in the chaos of thought."
"Yeah," says The Traveler. "You guys aren't supposed to reach this part of your development for a hella long time. You haven't got the right control yet."
Riker gets annoyed and demands to know why, if The Traveler and his people have had the ability to travel around and visit, have they only encountered him now? The Traveler smiles. He's kind of delighted with Riker's "arrogance."
"No offense, but you guys weren't interesting before now," he answers.
He passes out. A brief argument ensues, and Riker suggests that they only got shot out of their galaxy in the first place because The Traveler got distracted. Kosinski scoffs, saying that that's just a theory, and Picard barks at him to put up some facts or shut up.
PUNCH HIM, JEAN-LUC! PUNCH HIM!
Nope. They wake up The Traveler again. Wes protests them dragging him down to engineering to help them get the hell out of Dodge, but The Traveler says they are right, and they seriously need to GTFO right now.
But first he needs to talk to Picard alone.
"Wes is a wunderkind," The Traveler tells him when everyone has left. "He's smart as shit, and you have to encourage him, but you can't tell him I told you this, and you can't tell his mother. It has to develop on its own. He and others like him are why I and my people travel. We're on the look-out for people like Wes."
"Put it out with your mind!" yells Picard.
The blue shirt is eventually able to get the fire out, and then Picard tells him to get his shit together and report to his station, because they're getting the hell out of Dodge.
"Yes, sir!" snaps off the blue shirt, and he runs off down the corridor.
That scene seems out of place, like they should have deleted it from the final cut of the episode and ended up leaving it in. But just imagine how stoked that actor was when he got the part: "Mom, guess what? I got a part on the new Star Trek - two lines, and everything!"
Picard's Log: "... fuck it, I don't know when we are. So we're gonna repeat the warp experiment, but this time, everyone on board is gonna think good thoughts, because The Traveler says he can focus those thoughts like a lens."
The Traveler sits at the pool table this time, and he's got Wes, Riker and Argyle with him. No sign of Kosinski. Maybe they sent him to his room to think about what he did wrong. But then The Traveler says he needs Kosinski on the main computer, and Kosinski is all, "You like me! You really like me!"
No, dude. Nobody likes you. That was a pity offer. Sit yo' ass down.
Picard climbs on the PA to tell everyone that they need to focus on their duties and send good thoughts to The Traveler.
They set the heading for their previous position, and their speed for that initial warp 1.5.
They start moving at a good clip, but it isn't fast enough. Wes, sensing something is going to happen, stands and takes the hand of The Traveler. The Traveler gives it a good squeeze, then puts both hands on the console and starts to phase again. This time, he disappears completely. When the ship drops out of warp, they are back at the same place they started, back where they first beamed The Traveler and Kosinski aboard.
Riker reports back to the bridge to tell Picard that The Traveler has phased out of their time and place completely. Picard gets back on the PA.
"Hey, all. Thanks for your support. The Traveler got us back in one piece, but he's gone now."
Picard then has Riker call Wes to the bridge.
He tells Wes that he heard Wes had been helpful during this mess, and offers to let the kid sit in his chair. Riker points out that, per his own orders, Wes is not allowed to sit in the command seats.
"What about commissioned officers?" asks Picard. "Like ensigns?"
"Yeah, that would give him legit access to the bridge," Riker replies.
"Cool, officially making him an acting ensign," Picard says. "Add him to the duty roster."
Riker asks if he should call Dr Crusher to the bridge.
"Why? Somebody sick?" quips Picard. "Wes, you want your mom here right now?"
"No, thanks," smiles Wes, sitting in one of the side seats.
And they warp the hell out of there.
So this was a pretty good episode. They didn't outright copy anything already done by TOS, we got a cool Alien of the Week, some good sci-fi took place, and a character's development progressed a bit. Now, instead of just being some smart kid on the ship, Wes has been promoted to an acting position with the agreement that he learn all positions and apply to Starfleet Academy. This adds the interesting point of view of not only seeing a unique position in Starfleet (how many other acting ensigns exist out there), but it offers us the opportunity to see what the Academy might be like, and also how it might be to be a really young ensign.
- The wild Russian boar that plays the Klingon targ is named Emmy-Lou.
- When filming for this episode wrapped, Gene Rod gave Wil Wheaton his Lieutenant insignia from his Air Force days. This reinforces the idea that Gene Roddenberry wrote Picard's character as a reflection of his older self, and had cast Wil Wheaton because Wil reminded Gene of his younger self.
- When the E stops after the first jump, Geordi estimates that they had traveled 2.7 million light years to the galaxy known as M-33. While it wasn't known for certain then how far M-33 was from our galaxy at the time of filming, current estimates put it at about 2.7 million light years away.
- The man who played The Traveler (Eric Menyuk) originally auditioned for Data.
- The story for this episode was based loosely on a TOS novel called "The Wounded Sky." One of the writers for that novel also wrote this episode (Diane Duane). Many fans theorize that this story was the basis for the show Voyager.
- Chief Engineer Argyle appears for the second and last time this season, making him the engineer chief who appears most often in season one.
- Data's estimate that it will take the Enterprise 300 years to make it back to the Milky Way galaxy at maximum warp, traveling 2.7 million light years is actually not correct. It would take more than 2000 for them to get back home at top warp speed.
- The music that the ballerina ensign dances to is called "Waltz of the Chocolate Donut." Nope, not kidding. You can hear the Mozart string quartet part in the first half here, with the Chocolate Donut Waltz starting at about 38 seconds in.
- Footage from Encounter at Farpoint is used, when the E leaves the USS Hood. Here, the USS Fearless is represented by the ship used to depict the Hood, and the planet Deneb IV is removed from the background. Good job, Budget!
- Some of the special effects used for the different galaxies were made with Christmas lights and water reflections.
- Kosinski doesn't wear a communicator pin, so his lack of rank pips and his behavior seem to indicate that he's a civilian working within Starfleet.
- The string quartet officer in the mess hall is sitting in front of a bottle and glass on the table. The bottle was created for Star Trek III, so the Federation logo for that time period is featured on the bottle. Ooh, vintage!
Uhura thinks you're cute.